Tag Archives: Group Work

Quick Links – Group Work

Below are a list of Quick Links to posts that will help you with GROUP WORK:

(Click on the title & it will take you to the post)

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Group Work – Overcoming Challenges & Handling Conflict

Working in a group & having to deal with different personalities & schedules, can at best be challenging, and at worst result in total fallout

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Managing Group Conflict

You aren’t all going to agree on everything all the time – that just isn’t how groups function, at some point there will be disagreements and possibly tensions, and the way in which this is expressed and resolved is of importance.

When conflict arises within the group or between group members try to:

  • Remain objective. This means focusing on the issue of disagreement and not on the person you are disagreeing with i.e. do not attack the person, their personality, their personal traits.
  • Remain calm and hear each other out. If the disagreement turns into a shouting match and free-for-all, call a “time out”, give everyone a few minutes to calm down and collect themselves, then re-open the discussion with the rule that each person will get a chance to speak.
  • Use “I” Statements. This requires you to take responsibility for your own feelings and will help you to improve your communication when you are feeling angry or upset. The purpose of using “I” Statements is that the focus is placed on what is causing the upset whilst minimizing blame e.g. instead of saying: “We are sick of you arriving late for meetings”, you’d say: “I feel frustrated when you arrive late for meetings because it leaves the group with less time to work” OR instead of saying: “You never respond to group e-mails”, you’d say: “I feel annoyed when you don’t respond to group e-mails because it makes it difficult to figure out whether or not you agree with the suggestions being made”. The format for an “I” Statement is: “I feel _______when you_______because_______.”

I Statements

Challenges & Possible Solutions

Some common challenges when working in a group include:

Uneven contribution:

One or more group members are not contributing to the group project or are perceived  as not contributing, resulting in increased group tension and possible conflict.

Possible Solutions –

  • Set up clear expectations and guidelines for the group from the very start.
  • Assign roles & responsibilities so as to ensure that everyone contributes equally to the end product.
  • Address the issue directly and respectfully with the person/s who is not pulling their weight.
  • Include a “Record of Contribution” from each member in your project – this is a report that identifies exactly what each person in the group contributed to the project. If two people report contributing the same thing, this will raise alarms bells for your marker, and the students may then be required to provide evidence supporting their claim.
  • Refer back to the posts on: Group Work – The Basics and Group Work – Getting Organised & Started 
Scheduling Problems:

This may result in work on the project starting late or not being able to continue, resulting in feelings of resentment and frustration.

 Possible Solution –

  • Consider using alternative ways of meeting or communicating, set up an e-mail group or What’s App group for example, and use that as a way of discussing important items and keeping the project moving forward.
  • Refer back to the post on: Group Work – Getting Organised & Started.
Different Expectations & Work Ethics:

Some members may be striving for a distinction whilst others are just interested in passing. Some may go the extra mile and get their work done ahead of schedule, others may procrastinate, leaving their contribution to the last minute. This may cause considerable group tension and resentment because it feels as if not everyone is committed to the project. 

Possible Solutions –

  • Keep work and project goals realistic and attainable.
  • Remember that your actions (or lack thereof) will impact on others in the group or the group as a whole.
  • Agree on a schedule upfront and revise it periodically to ensure that everyone is keeping pace.
  • Refer back to the post on: Group Work – Getting Organised & Started.
Getting Stuck:

Groups sometimes hit a wall and get “stuck” – this can result in procrastination and work avoidance.

Possible Solutions –

  • Re-read the assessment brief focusing on the expectations and goals of the assessment.
  • Call a brainstorming session so that you can generate and discuss ideas.
  • Use mind mapping to link common ideas and threads.
  • Set up a group-lecturer appointment to discuss the problem and get unstuck.
  • Refer back to the post on: Student-Lecturer Meetings.

References:

Effective Group Work. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/studyadvice/StudyResources/Seminars/sta-groupwork.aspx [Accessed on: 07 July 2016]

Therapist Aid. (2014). “I” Statements. Retrieved from: http://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheet/i-statements [Accessed on: 19 April 2016]

Weimer, M. (2014). 10 Recommendations for Improving Group Work. Retrieved from: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/10-recommendations-improving-group-work/ [Accessed on: 04 September 2015]

Working Effectively in Groups. (n.d.). Retrieved from:  https://uwaterloo.ca/student-success/sites/ca.student-success/files/uploads/files/TipSheet_GroupWork_0.pdf [Accessed on: 07 July 2016]

Group Work – Getting Organised & Started

Now that you’ve got the skills to work in a group, it’s time to get started on organising and working.

teamwork

Setting Parameters

If you think of any team sport, be it netball, soccer or hockey, without rules and parameters the game would disintegrate into chaos and a free-for-all. The same goes for group work, there have to be agreed upon rules, roles and deadlines, not only in order for the work to get done but to ensure that everyone is contributing and working towards the same end result.

Things you may want to consider at your first group meeting include, but aren’t limited to:

  • General group etiquette – Some ideas to consider: cell phones are put away and on silent during meetings; do not interrupt someone when they are speaking; always be respectful in your tone and manner; no screaming, shouting or temper tantrums; arrive on time for meetings.
  • When to meet – This may be difficult to arrange but short-term, personal compromises may need to be made for the benefit the greater group e.g. coming to campus on a day you have no scheduled lectures, forfeiting your lunch break. You should not however miss a class in order to attend a group meeting – lecture attendance is non-negotiable.
  • Where to meet – Select a place that is accessible to all members, often campus is the best and easiest solution. Also consider finding a quiet, comfortable place to meet – trying to have a group meeting in the middle of the parking lot with cars and other students passing by is not conducive to a calm and productive meeting environment.
  • Keeping in contact with each other – It may not be feasible to physically meet as often as the group would like, that is what technology is for – together, agree on an additional form of communication e.g. e-mail, WhatsApp group, something that everyone has access to. Also ensure that all messages sent via the the chosen form of communication is a) sent to every member of the group and b) read / picked up by every member of the group , so there are no excuses of “I didn’t see it” or “I didn’t get it“. This can be done by applying a “read receipt” to e-mails or checking on notification status of messages.
  • A realistic schedule – The best way to do this is to work backwards from the submission date, that way you can identify important milestone dates, conflicting dates etc. Once a schedule is agreed upon it is important that each member of the group commit to it. They only way you will get group buy-in regarding milestone dates is if those dates are negotiated and agreed on by all the members and not just a select few.
  • Minute your meetings – This is a common practice in the working world and a good way of keeping record of: who was present / absent; what was discussed; what was agreed on; who was assigned what task etc. [Remember: if you aren’t happy with the mark your group gets and you want to appeal the decision you will need evidence to back your argument, minutes of your meetings may hold information and proof to support your request.] Appoint one member of the group as the “scribe”, it is this persons responsibility to accurately note any decisions, task allocation etc. made during the meeting, to write out / type out the notes and distribute them to all members of the group within a reasonable amount of time i.e. 2 – 3 days after the meeting.

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Making the Most of Meetings

Meetings need to have structure in order for them to be productive, without a pre-set list of goals or topics for discussion, a meeting can easily degenerate into a conversation about next week’s campus talent show and the new lecturer’s hair colour.

  • Either during the first few minutes of the meeting or else a day or two before the meeting (via e-mail or WhatsApp) agree on items for your agenda – what needs to be discussed, what feedback needs to be given etc.
  • Use the agenda to keep the group focused during the meeting – when people start going off on a tangent, you waste time, others will lose interest and your meeting becomes unproductive.
  • End your meetings by confirming that everyone knows what is expected of them and what needs to be done / completed / ready for review by the next meeting. Be sure that your group scribe notes all this down and circulates the minutes timeously, so that there can be no comebacks of “I didn’t know what I was supposed to do“, “That isn’t what I was tasked with“, at the next meeting.
  • Agree on the date, time and venue of the next meeting.

meeting

Appointing Roles & Organising the Work

The appointment of roles and organisation of work can make or break a group. This is where your communication and listening skills really need to come into play and where compromises, for the greater good, may need to be made.

Dividing up the work 

It is important to know a little about the members of your group, particularly in terms of their strengths and weaknesses, before you decide on who will be doing what; you don’t want to appoint the final verbal presentation of your assessment to someone who has a phobia of speaking in public.

Be sure to include everyone in on discussions, decisions and work allocation. People are more co-operative, productive and willing to take responsibility, if they have been included in the groundwork that led to the decision.

Everyone should be given a chance to speak and “pitch” for specific jobs (if the assessment brief is that way inclined), listen to what they have to say and keep the group agenda, not your agenda, in mind when making final decisions – what is best for the group?

Group Roles

The way in which the work has been divided may automatically assign people to particular roles, or you may need to assign specific roles over and above the work that has been assigned.

Some common group roles include:

  • The Leader – leads discussions using open-ended questions; they facilitate discussions by clarifying and summarising group comments and decisions; they guide conversations, keeping them on track and positive; they check for consensus and / or questions from group members.
  • The Organiser –  schedules and communicates meeting dates, times and venues; ensures that meetings follow an agenda; records and distributes notes of the meeting (incl. important items that were discussed, decisions that were made, tasks that were allocated); monitors the project timeline and keeps the project on track.
  • The Editor/s – compiles the final piece of work from parts received from different members of the group; ensures that the final product flows and is consistent; edits completed work (i.e. spell check, grammar, formatting etc.)
  • The Presenter/s – if applicable: works with the group members to compile a cohesive and articulate presentation; presents the presentation in class.

Meet the Team.2

Characteristics of an Effective Group

  • Everyone understands and acknowledges that the assessment cannot be completed without the contribution and co-operation of all the members.
  • All members are given the opportunity to share their ideas and express themselves. They are listened to carefully and without interruption, and useful points are acknowledged.
  • Differences or issues are dealt with directly with the person or people involved. It is up to the group to identify what the problem/s is, everyone is given the opportunity to give input, and together the group come to a decision that makes sense to everyone.
  • The group recognizes hard work and encourages each of the members to take responsibility for their tasks and / or roles. There is a shared sense of pride responsibility.

In the next post we will be looking at how to overcome the challenges of working in a group, as well as how to handle group conflict.


References:

Effective Group Work. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/studyadvice/StudyResources/Seminars/sta-groupwork.aspx [Accessed on: 07 July 2016]

Sarkisian, E. (n.d.). Working In Groups: A Note to Faculty and a Quick Guide for Students. Retrieved from: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/html/icb.topic58474/wigintro.html [Accessed on: 07 July 2016]

Tips for Working in Groups. (2008). Retrieved from: http://www.speaking.pitt.edu/student/groups/smallgrouptips.html [Accessed on: 07 July 2016]

Working Effectively in Groups. (n.d.). Retrieved from:  https://uwaterloo.ca/student-success/sites/ca.student-success/files/uploads/files/TipSheet_GroupWork_0.pdf [Accessed on: 07 July 2016]

 

Group Work – The Basics

We’re into Week 4 of the semester and assessment briefs will soon be issued, some of which may require…

GROUP WORK  

team work

Why the Emphasis on Group Work?

As media students you will eventually be entering industries that all place high priority on their employees’ ability to work well in and contribute to a team. Employers are looking for graduates who can bring new or different strengths to their existing teams.

If you think about it, there are very few jobs in today’s creative industry that call for a person to work on their own without any team collaboration. Yes, you may eventually sit down at your computer and design the next big thing in automatic goldfish feeding systems, but not before working as part of a team: meeting with the client, researching the product, discussing specifications and budgets, brainstorming ideas…and so on, and so on.

Employers, today, consider “teamwork” a key employment skill which graduates are expected to be familiar with, if not proficient in, when entering the job market.

teamwork job advert

Skills Needed for Group Work

Group work requires the consistent application of certain skills in order for the process to run smoothly, and to allow for different people, with different attributes and personalities to work together effectively.

Communication and Listening Skills:

Effective group work requires the participants to practice both good communication and listening skills.

We’ve all at one point or another switched off when someone was talking or interrupted someone because we just had to share our thoughts right. that. instant. It’s fine to allow your communication and / or listening skills to slip in casual, social environments, but when it comes to high stakes situations such as working on a group assessment, or with a team on a multi-million Rand campaign, these skills can be make or break, not just for you but the whole group.

Tips For Improving Your Communication Skills When Working In A Group:

  • Speak “in” the group, not “at” the group – what this means is: if you speak at a person or group, you come across as domineering and not open to them responding or adding to the conversation.
  • Speak to the whole group, not just your friends in the group.
  • Contribute to the discussion, but don’t dominate.
  • Ask questions, but not just for the sake of asking a question.
  • Encourage the group to stick to the discussion topic and not waste time by going off on a tangent.
  • Build on other’s ideas e.g. “That’s a good point because it will…”
  • Use “open” language e.g. “What do you guys think about…” vs. “I think we should…” – people are more likely to listen to and consider suggestions if they are put forward in an open manner.
  • Acknowledge your errors and apologise e.g. “I see, sorry I misunderstood what you were saying.” – by owning and apologising for your mistakes minor issues will remain just that.
  • Be considerate of other’s feelings – before blurting something out e.g. “That’s a stupid idea, it will never work”, consider how you would feel if it were said to you.
  • Summarise what the group has agreed on / discussed so far / scheduled to be done by the next meeting – this helps ensure everyone is on the same page and any misunderstandings can be dealt with sooner rather than later.
  • Don’t forget to pay attention to your and other’s non-verbal communication (body language, facial expressions) – this can tell you a lot about how people in the group are feeling about the group, the ideas being discussed etc.

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Tips For Improving Your Listening Skills When Working In A Group:

  • A lot of the time we don’t listen with the intent to understand or hear what the other person is saying, instead we listen with the intent to reply. For effective  group communication you need to concentrate on what the other person is saying, rather than thinking about what you want  to say next.
  • Don’t interrupt others – everyone should be allowed the time and space to have their say or make their contribution without interruption.
  • Focus on the content of what the person is saying and then build on it or link it to other ideas.

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Constructive Feedback:

No-one likes to be criticised – it feeds into our insecurities and often results in withdrawal and animosity. It is thus vital to the health and productivity of the group to ensure that feedback is given in a constructive manner.

  • Do not shoot down other people’s ideas or work with thoughtless comments like: “that’s stupid”; “you’re crazy”; “you don’t know what you’re talking about” etc.
  • You aren’t always going to agree with others and their ideas but that is no excuse for being rude, inconsiderate or harsh. Rather use it as an opportunity to explore the idea, you may be surprised what you find out.
  • Don’t only speak up when you disagree, speak up when you agree too – “So do I!”, “That’s a great idea”.
  • When giving feedback or your opinion, be constructive and be specific. There is nothing useful to be gained from comments like: “I don’t like it“, “It isn’t going to work“. If you don’t agree with something explain why and back up your argument with evidence or examples.
  • For every problem you identify, you should back it with an explanation and / or solution.

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In the next post we will be looking at how to get your group started and moving in the right direction.

References:

Communication Behaviors for Effective Group Work. (2008). Retrieved from: http://www.speaking.pitt.edu/student/groups/smallgroupbehavior.html [Accessed on 07 July 2016]

Effective Group Work. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/studyadvice/StudyResources/Seminars/sta-groupwork.aspx [Accessed on: 07 July 2016]